Monday, January 01, 2018

those 2018 what ifs

It's a new year, it's an new me!

Not really. I'm the same guy I was yesterday, but I am filled with aspirations. I do this from time to time -- start the year out with #Goals, and then never go back and check.  As a matter of fact, I just now re-read my January 2014 post entitled "The Great 48", with 48 things I wanted to do in the coming year.

And some of them I accomplished. I watched (14) plenty of movies. Started a book (20) on my 500 favorite films.  I learned how to spell "Itinerary" (but "occasionally" still throws me off)... I managed to (36) plan magic for a lot more people... I took care (39) of the pictures... (42) I take Campbell to the park frequently... (43) We paid off the car and (44) I wrote letters, continued to (47) podcast and (48) bought several lunches. Some of the 48 I almost got to, some I never even really tried, and others I knocked out of the park, albeit a year or three later.

So this year, I had another list of random things to do for 2018.  They aren't resolutions, because resolutions can be broken - and with that broken resolution can come guilt and a sense of failure. I have no time for either one of those.

So, what if I could make a list of things to do?  What if I could get them done?

This list is really in no particular order, but one of things is to (1) write more.  See, over the last several years, this whole "What is my word for the year" thing came into fashion.  You gotta pick a word.  And that is your word for that year.  Fancy, important words like "Thrive" and "Resolve" and "Intention" and "Joy" and "Antidisestablishmentarianism". Okay, so that last one isn't a Year Word for anyone I know, but it could be.

My word this year?  "Write".  I'm good at it. Not as good as many, but better than some. Its something I've been working on since I was in 2nd grade, when I tried to write a play for my classmates to perform, and got as far as the first page before I realized none of my 2nd grade peers wanted to rehearse ("The Prince & the Princess" would have been a show-stopper). 

This year, I'm going "write". I'm going "Write" in (2) the form of blogging.  No goal, no set number of blogs, no "100 posts this year!" declaration. Just more blogging.  More posts.  More writing. Even if I do 4 per month, that's at least 48 this year.  After 87 posts in 2015, I managed only 21 TOTAL from 2015 to 2017, and that includes my 1000th post.

I thought of retiring the blog, but I just couldn't do it.  And people keep checking it, because like the narcissist I am, I do check the page views. And you people are checking for new stuff. So, thank you for that.

The book in its first draft. The first of many, many
drafts to come.
Also with "Write" comes (3) finishing the book.  Did you know I was writing a book. A few weeks ago, I was 67,000 words in, though after a little editing, I'm back down to 63,000.  I'm shooting for about 80K, maybe a little more -- its a movie book.  It's entitled, simply enough, "This is a Movie Book" (thanks for that title, dear friend Clay Shaver).  And its about my 500 favorite films of all time. More information on that to come.

By the end of the year, I want that book finished and I want it (4) ready to be sent to an editor (either The Peacock Quill or Shayla Raquel, with that decision to be made later).  I won't be able to afford an editor this year, but in 2019, expect it to hit bookshelves.

In 2016, I had a goal of 160 "new to me", as in, I'd never seen them before. I ended up watching 171 movies, both new in theaters, year old films that had hit streaming services and even some classics I just somehow missed ("Bachelor Party", anyone?).  New goal? (5) To watch 170 "new to me" movies.

(Speaking of podcasts... Don't forget The Deucecast Movie Show Over 300 episodes and still going strong, filled with movie reviews, celeb discussion, pop culture stuff and much more)

I don't talk much about TV, but there are three series that I'm bound and determined to blow through... I've only fully seen season one of (6) Gilmore Girls and never seen any of (7) The Wire and plan on finally knocking out both, episode by episode.

Long book, interesting story
Likewise, in 2016, I had a goal of 45 books read--both first time reads and re-reads count, and both on paper and via audiobook.  I got my 45th read on December 28th ("Wonder" by RJ Palacio).  (8) New goal?  50 books, but there will be a handful of graphic novels and short plays I want to read as well. I've got a handful of Neil Labute, August Wilson & David Mamet scripts at the ready.  The first book of the year completed will likely be (9) "Sleeping Beauties" by Stephen King & Owen King.  Its a 25 hour audiobook, and coming into January 1, I was 11 hours in.

Don't worry... like usual, you'll get my (10) Top Ten Books of the Year in the coming week or so.  I'm actually not even sure which one is number 1.

Back in July, I randomly started a fitness quest -- to run a mile in under 9 minutes or less.  So, every day I started running one mile on the treadmill at our local Planet Fitness.  And save for a few Sundays or so, I did just that for almost three months. My first mile clocked in at under 13 minutes, which for me was major, because I hadn't actually run a consecutive mile in many, many years.  In fact, the chick at Planet Fitness let me know that it had been over 3 years since I'd been back.  As I was on the cusp of turning 42, that means I legit hadn't worked out ever since I had turned 40.

The mile whittled down to around 9:30ish, and then, at the nearby indoor playground, I jumped on a trampoline with Campbell the Kid that was way too low and *BAM* landed (and bounced up) on the bum on the hard floor.  Leg injury.  And in usual d$ fashion, after the leg was okay, I didn't go back. So I will.  At some point sooner than later.  The goal is still (11) a mile in under 9 minutes.  That'll help in (12) losing that 20 pounds I've been trying to shed for years.

So many people to see again -- my friends (13) Clay Shaver and (14) Rick Theule are in Michigan, and I need to say hey, and I had so much fun talking to my friend (15) Amy Campbell while in Tulsa, I want to buy her a drink and just sit and chat.  When I make it to Nashville, I'd like to buy my friend (17) Anna Floit a drink. My friend (18) Bill Seybolt is in Atlanta, so buying he and (19) Bill Weeks a beer is easier.  Also in Atlanta is (20) Six Flags, which I do want to return to. Don't read anything into this... there are many names that I can name of people I want to see again, and hopefully will.  I need to find my buddy (21) Writer Chris Holmes and spend an hour making fun of Hillary.

The podcast, on iTunes, on Google Play, on Stitcher and
various places online. Go get it. 
Most likely, it would happen at the annual (22) Launch Out Conference I attend.  Last year was in Tulsa, and this year is in Nashville.  Last year I spoke what I considered to be a mediocre speech.  This year, (23) I want to give the speech of my life.  Already been working on it since this past August. That is if I am chosen to speak... it's never a guarantee they'll want to hear me.

Then there is the business stuff.  Magic on a Dollar Travel Planning is going well, and I'm somewhere around 350 vacations planned over the years.  For 2018 to be a big year, I'll need at least 150 trips planned... which means I will (24) plan my 500th vacation some time this year.  On the Facebook page, I'm close to 5600 LIKEs, so what if I could get to 6000?  Maybe even 7000?

I also started a new podcast, the Magic on a Dollar Podcast, and as of right now, its 13 episodes in.  It started super strong, and has leveled off dramatically. So the goal there? (25) A 250% increase in downloads this year.  The ultimate would be to make the (26) "New & Noteworthy" on iTunes, but that is a huge goal that may or may not be attainable.

In order for the show to get better, I've got to learn a few new skills... (27) editing, for one... and (28) being able to allow guests on the show for another.

Along with that is (29) getting my website finally finished.  Mostly, I just need content, which leads us back to... you guessed it, "Write".

Plus a handful of other things from my previous list that would be good to do this year... or do more of... (30) send out more birthday and anniversary cards... (31) pray more... (32) say hello to every person who ever rings up my purchases at a counter... (33) give grace before it's asked and (34) ask for grace before it's required... (35) clean out that garage... (36) do something extraordinary. What you ask? I have no idea. I'll know it when it happens.  

Can you believe it's been out for three months, and I still don't own (37) Taylor Swift's new album, nor the new live album by (38) The Dixie Chicks.  Will remedy that in the next week or so.

Haaaay Tay...
Finally, in the back closet of our home sits my extensive comic book collection. One of my long term goals is to collect every issue of the (39) Uncanny X-Men from #200 to #544, which is the the end of its original run, and then the (40) Fantastic Four, issues #300 to #645, which is it's original run's ending.  I'm probably less than 200 issues combined from completing both desired runs. But you can't buy issues on sale if you don't know which ones you are missing.  So its likely time to (41) sort through the comics, sell some, give some out and pare it down.

Okay. There's a list of things to do this year. What if I could get these things done?  What if I could get half of these things done?

What if I buckled down and had victory after victory.

What if?

We already started the "WRITE" way.  See what I did there? Okay, okay, I'm rusty, but I'll get my groove back soon enough.

Follow d$'s personal stuff on Instagram at @davedollar, and keep up with the movies, music, TV and books on @TheDaveofPop, and follow the magic of Disney @Magiconadollar. 

Then Go Subscribe and download the Magic on a Dollar Podcast, and The Deucecast Movie Show Podcast.

Friday, December 01, 2017

to campbell, on your 6th birthday

Dear Campbell,

Yesterday, your Mom and I were sitting at the dining room table, watching you jump up and down on your trampoline, then run over and watch the YouTube video of Melissa & Artur play on Tayo the Little Bus. 
You look like you are a miniature version of
a 14 year old in this picture. Seriously.

"Can you believe he's going to be six years old?" I asked your mom.
"Let's not even talk about it." she replied with a sigh. 

You made us smile. You always make us smile.  Well, let's be honest, not always... sometimes you drive us up the flippin' wall.  Sometimes you test our patience, sometimes you frustrate us, and sometimes you make us want to open the door and shout random unpleasant words into the night because we are so agitated at your disobedience.

But those times? Those times are few.  Mostly, you make us smile.

First, though, let's talk about the year since your birthday.  2017 has been... well, interesting to the say the least. 

As far as movies go, "Wind River" has been my favorite thusfar, though I don't expect you to see that for a long time. Several Marvel movies came out, like "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2", "Thor Ragnarok" and "Spiderman Homecoming", and all were excellent. I look forward to the day when you get into superheroes like this, and we can watch these films together.

Other movies that I enjoyed that maybe you and I can watch one day include "Baby Driver" and "Kong Skull Island" and the new Pixar movie "Coco". Your Mom and I are actually talking about taking you to see that one, letting it be your first movie theater movie ever.  But... we'll see.

I couldn't tell you a thing about music, other than Taylor Swift has a new album out, which I'll probably get and make you listen to.  And while I am doing a ton of audiobooks, I have no idea what came out this year or last, so I'm no help there either. 

As far as the world news, President Donald Trump has been in charge for almost a year now, and though he's had some hits, he's had some misses.  The news is crazy every day, so I won't even try to talk about the headlines in 2017.

Your first ice cream... well, it was sorbet, but as
far as you are concerned, it was "I's Cray"
You had some awesome milestones this year, including trying ice cream for the very first time! Strawberry sorbet from Whole Foods!  You also had your first Popsicle ever, an avocado popsicle at Steel City Pops. You ate both pretty fast and wanted more... I don't blame you.

You learned how to swim this past summer!  Ms Kerri taught you in only a few days (you still ask for "wah pay", which is "water play") and you visited your first water park, Splash Adventure, where you rode water slide after water slide after water slide. It was a testament to how good your potty training skills are because you always ask to go.  One of the few times you peed your pants this whole year was when I couldn't get you to the bathroom in time while at Splash Adventure.

Yes, you spent the whole day at a water park, but refused to pee in the pools, you wanted to go to a toilet.  Good job, kid, good job.

Campbell, you are talking like crazy now. I used to pray every night that one day you would, and somewhere around January or February of this year, you just started.  Words came slowly at first, but then quicker and quicker.  You can tell us what you want to watch now...

...okay, by the way, I have no idea what you'll be watching when you do read this, but let me tell you, not only do you dig on this show called PJ Masks (three 6 year olds put on special pajamas and become night time crime fighters)... but you love the Muppets, which makes your Dad VERY proud, especially when you see Kermit and say "KAH-MAT!!"... and you love Mickey's Roadster Racers, which is a lesser replacement for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse... and for some reason, you are now into this YouTube Channel called "MelliArt", which are these two kids named Melissa & Artur in all these videos that teach colors and numbers and fruit names and vehicle names and such.  I did the research, and apparently it hails from Greece -- you can tell by the accents of the kids and the dad, who seems nice.  Anyway, YOU LOVE that stuff.  You ask to watch "TAYO BUS" every day, and you don't just mean the Tayo the Little Bus show... you want to watch the video with the kids on the Tayo toy bus singing "Wheels on the Bus".  This is a testament to how much Mom and Dad love you, because we hear that song being sung in a slightly greek accent in our sleep now.  Aye yi yi.

Okay, back to your words...

Yes, you tell us what you want to watch when we ask... you say "please" (sounds like "peas") when you ask for things... earlier today, you went to the potty ALL BY YOURSELF (I only came to check when I heard no more splashing in the water)... you are talking SO MUCH now, and its so wonderful.

And we know you love music, because you are doing great on your piano lessons. And how you ask your Mommy to sing "Let It Go" and "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman" to you every night when you are taking a bath -- you went through a phase where you wanted to watch "Rio 2" and "Frozen" every day, and though those aren't requested much anymore, you still love the songs.  Nothing is sweeter than hearing your voice down the hall ask your Mom "Sing Lah Go peas" or "Sing Sno-mah peas" ("sing Let It Go please" and "sing Snowman please")

We always worry about you making friends... not that you can't make friends, but we hope that friends will find you, and boy, you have some this year.  It's a hoot watching you play with your classmate Barrett, and especially his little brother Fitz, who you seem to just love to chase and be around.  And I know you like Piper and Spencer and Eli because you call out their names when you see them.

I know that "imagination" is still something you are working on, as well as "creative playing"... meaning, you and I can't just sit down together and have an adventure with LEGOs or action figures -- but you are starting to get there. I watching you walk the little people figures up the toy airplane steps and I watch you mime and simulate actions that you see us do (scary) and I know your little brain is just absorbing and churning.

And I am so happy that you finally attached yourself to something like PJ Masks.  Catboy, Gekko and Owlette aren't just random names you see on TV... you know who they are, you identify with what they do, and you say their names with recognition.  Campbell, son, that's a big deal for you.

Your Mother and I love you so, so much, and we are so proud of you, Campbell.  I feel like you've developed more this year than you ever have, and its been so great to watch.  You have lots of fans too -- lots of people I know in person and online ask about you, root for you, pray for you, and really want to meet you one day.

Six is going to be a big year for you too -- more swimming lessons, more bike lessons and next fall, real public school. We are petrified. You'll be awesome.

In fact, I wrote this entire letter on this page and didn't even think of the word "Autism" until I started linking previous letters to you at the bottom... and then thought "Oh yeah... my kid has the autism. But autism can suck it."  It just shows that Autism isn't going to hold you back. I believe that, I truly do.

Now, here's the lesson I wanted to teach you.  This is important, listen up... "Respect" has become a big deal in this current day we live in.  There have been lots of news stories about people -- mostly men -- who have shown lots of disrespect to others -- mostly women -- in the way they talk to them, treat them and yes, even try to touch them and be with them in ways that aren't nice or proper or appropriate. 

"Respect" means that you treat someone you know (or someone you don't) with kindness.  It means you don't say or do anything to make them feel bad about themselves, or to make you look like you are better than them.  "Respect", especially when it comes to girls, is something that you need to always show.  If you ever show the kind of disrespect to a woman that we are seeing in the news lately, you'll have me and your mom to answer to. I don't care if you are 14 or 45.

We love you, but we need you to understand that many people aren't respectful out there.  Sometimes people won't respect you, son, sometimes people will say and do things to you and around you that will try to make you feel bad. That will try to make you feel like you aren't as good as anyone else. Don't listen to that nonsense.

You were created by God and given to me and your Mom exactly how you were meant to be.  Sometimes its been challenging, other times its been wonderful, and then so many times its just between all of that.

Remember that God loves you more than anyone ever would or could -- as much as Mom and I love you, which is more than you can imagine, God loves you even more.  We pray that one day, when you grasp the concept, you'll find Jesus in your heart as well. 

As always, I write these birthday letters to you late at night, so its likely a jumbled mess, much like my parenting skills, but I think you catch my drift.  I'm headed to bed now, as I have to get you up and cook your breakfast in about 4 hours.


To Campbell, on your 5th birthday
To Campbell, on your 4th birthday (with links to previous letters)
Learning the A-Word
My Kid Has the Autism

Thursday, August 31, 2017

the geneva walmart

So, the Wal-Mart in Geneva, AL, turns 30 today, this the last day of August.

Here you see Birmingham, Troy, Samson,
and Geneva. The pink dots are bigger than
the actual towns themselves.
Let me set the geography for the many of you that have no clue where I'm talking about. I'm from a little town called Samson, population 2100, with 2 red lights and a caution light, and 40ish members of the graduation class of 1993.  Our family moved to 201 N. Johnson Street in 1984, then across the side street to 211 North Johnson Street in 1985, and finally, 208 N. Johnson Street in 1986... yes, we moved one house over, across a street, then moved across N. Johnson to another house, and that would be the home I lived in until I moved off to college in the fall of 1993.

Samson has two main roads - the aforementioned N. Johnson, which runs north to south, and Hwy 52, which runs east to west, and essentially is the "downtown" part of Samson, Alabama.  So if you left my house, took a left once you hit town at Hwy 52, and then drove 8 miles... past the Subway/Dollar General (is that still there?) and the old peanut mill, past the log cabin house, past the pipe plant thing, past the McInnis' veterinarian office, past the caution light, past the cutoff road to go to Joey Stephens' old house and where Forrest & Charlotte Wright live (and Sandy and Cristie too), and yes, past the Sunny Meadows Cemetery (rest in peace, Jennifer W-B) you'll come to the Geneva County seat, a small city called Geneva, Alabama.

And if you did all of these things on August 31st, 1987, you'd see the brand spankin' new Walmart. To my 12 year old self, this was amazing.  I had only heard tale of such discount stores, but to have a Walmart here?  Eight miles from my house??  I mean... that was even cooler than the McDonald's in Geneva (which would be about 9 miles from my house), or the movie theaters in Enterprise (around 20 miles from my house), or even the brand new Wiregrass Commons Mall in Dothan (I lived 45 miles from a mall... those were the days).

This Walmart was amazing!  It had records and tapes, and clothes, and cool things and other cool things and it was HUGE.  I mean, not as big as that new Walmart Supercenter that opened in Enterprise in what, 1989?  But still.  A Walmart was 8 miles from me.  So awesome.

And I frequented that Walmart.  Frequently.

As a matter of fact, I can tell you with certainty that in the time it opened until I moved to Troy in 1993, I purchased the following:

The majesty of the Walmart in Geneva. To 12 year old me, it was a castle.
To 42 year old me, its a quaint reminder of childhood. 

  • Debbie Gibson's "Out of the Blue" album on vinyl, and considering it just turned 30 itself, this might be the first thing I ever purchased from a Walmart.  
  • The soundtrack to the movie "Cocktail", also on vinyl
  • A Valentine's gift for my high school girlfriend Cindy H, which I believe was pajamas
  • A birthday gift for my friend Stephanie Phillips, who said after her birthday that I didn't even get her a card. She was kidding, but I bought her a shirt.  Nowadays, a "shirt from Walmart" doesn't sound as nice as "a shirt from Target" or "a shirt from Macys", but to me, it was an awesome gift. It was white with pink stripes. It had shoulder pads. Yes, looking back, it was probably not very fashionable, and to Stephanie's credit, she wore it at least once.  But I bought it with my own money, so it's the thought that counts, right? Right.
  • Tons of paper and notebooks for the stories I wrote in junior high and high school, and I wrote a ton. By hand. I wore mechanical pencils slap out (of which I also bought at Walmart)
  • Starship's "Knee Deep in the Hoopla" and The Jets' self titled album, both on cassette. I loved The Jets
  • A pair of silk boxer shorts, just because I wanted to find out what silk boxers felt like. They ride. Bad.
  • My first tennis racket. I was inspired by Jennifer Capriati and Wimbledon back in the day, and I played tennis regularly for the next 15 to 20 years. 
  • Amy Grant's "That's What Love is For" on cassette single. I still have it.  Love that song.
  • Cathy King's baby shower gift, which was a carseat.  She was a classmate of mine, and to be fair, High School Girlfriend Cindy H and I bought it together.
  • Angie Jay's homecoming gift, because she was my date in October 1992. Until Bradley Miller screwed that up.  Don't remember the gift, but I never gave it.  There's a high school story for you. 
  • A ficus tree for Ms Peterson, my civics teacher, because her kindness saved my Troy scholarship. I left after my last final as a high school student, sped down to the Geneva Walmart, bought it and sped back, putting it in her classroom before her planning period was over.   

This Walmart holds a ton of memories for me, and I'm glad it's still open. And I'm actually glad it's not 24 hours -- its hours are something like 7a to 9p or maybe even 10p on the weekends.  And whereas the Walmart (formerly a "Supercenter", but now just called "Walmart") that is about 4 minutes from my home through traffic is a behemoth of a building, the Geneva Walmart is less than 150 paces from one side to the other.  I know because I've counted it.  150 paces would get you out of the grocery department and maybe past the self service checkout at the Walmart on Hwy 280, close to me.

And when I have a few extra minutes as I'm coming through Samson (with my old house being sold, there isn't a lot of "coming to" Samson now), I'll drive down Hwy 52, stop at Sunny Meadows and see my friend Jennifer for a minute, then stop in the Geneva Walmart. Sometimes just to walk around, though that doesn't take long. Sometimes to remember where I used to purchase records, then cassettes, then the Plexiglas case that had CD long boxes -- CD players were too fancy for my blood in 1992, I tell you.

So, happy 30th birthday, Geneva Walmart. May you be around another 30, and I'll see you soon, I'm sure.

(Many thanks to my friend Amy Warr for retweeting the WTVY-TV link that alerted me to this great holiday -- you can read their story here, though mine is better)

Friday, June 30, 2017

we wants the redhead

So, I'm a big Disney guy, but I'm not a PC guy. I think political correctness is ruining many things in the country because it's an overused term.   

Having said that, I met the news that Disney is changing up the "redhead auction" scene in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disney World with mixed feelings. 

In case you aren't familiar with the famous ride, you board a boat, which takes you through a journey through dimly lit pirate scenes. Speaking mostly of the Disney World version (thought Disneyland is very similar), you pass by a mermaid skeleton, a skeleton steering a ghost ship, down a small pitch black incline, then in between a battle between a ship and a fort. The rest of the ride will take you through various comical scenes with pirates looting and drinking and plundering and so on, with World featuring Jack Sparrow, and Land being more traditional.

There is a scene in the second half that shows an auction for... well, women.  Audio animatronics of various sizes stand, waiting to be sold, as one of the pirates yells out "We wants the redhead!" referring to a more attractive... well, woman for sale.  Yes, it's a robot, but you feel me.

Some years ago, during a refurbishment, some scenes were changed to have some of the women weilding rolling pins chasing their men (as opposed to the other way around, as it was for decades before).  Disney now wants both men and women pirates/robots to be involved in looting and buying random things at the auction.

From what I've seen on social media, most people do not want this change, want Disney to leave well enough alone and are "tired of all this PC crap and tired of companies like Disney giving in to the small minority of people who want to change it!", or some such.

At first, I thought "Why not leave well enough alone?"  I mean, it's been like that for a long time, and Disney has monorails that need to be fixed, they have garbage cans that need to be emptied way more than before, pricing is going up, Universal is atop its game and so on -- I mean, Disney has bigger fish to fry, right?

And yet...

There's something about selling a person that bugs me.  Even if it's a robot. 

If Splash Mountain depicted the selling of a slave, or at least a black slave (as that's how we usually think of "slavery"), Magic Kingdom would burn to the ground.  Heck, they won't even release the movie "Song of the South" in the US for sale or streaming (I support it being available, by the way), and so why do we think the selling of females, even depicted as campy, silly characters, are okay?

Let me stop here.  I have a feeling by now, some of you reading are thinking,  "What are you talking about?  You're falling for the same PC crap that Disney is giving in to!" and those who really know me are probably saying "Really? What about you being against (fill in hot topic of the day that I've given my opinion on in recent months) but you support this??"  For that answer, I can definitively... I don't know.  I have no idea.

I do know this, though.  Slavery, at least in this country as we know it, doesn't exist. Trafficking does.  Trafficking is not okay.  Even when it's robots.  

Gosh, I sound silly, don't I?  Robots don't traffic.  They do what they are programmed to do. And it's an old attraction back when making such amusing jokes and scenes were acceptable.  And honestly, I'm sure it's acceptable today... but I really am not bothered by Disney's move to change things up. 

I guess I just pictured some 18 year old girl who'd spent 4 years being trapped in the slave trade (re: sex trafficking), but now free and enjoying a day of magic and fun at Magic Kingdom... and seeing a scene with silly, stupid, goofy looking robot pirates that ended up reminding her of how she was stolen from her family years ago, sold to some billionaire and sent to a foreign country... or a nearby county. 

So that's it. Maybe I'm silly, and I don't plan on defending my position other than what I've stated. I have no problem with people being mad about Disney changing the scene... and if Disney makes an about face and decides to leave as is, I'll probably be fine with it.

But taking out the part where women are sold into slavery?  I'm okay with it. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

top ten books of 2016

Read the other two posts that precede this.... first, my love of audiobooks, and second, the books that didn't make the top ten.


"Superheroes Are For Real" by Ethan Bryan (2016)
I didn't count this in my Top Ten, as it's a children's book, but it's still worth the 15 minutes it takes to read.  It glorious comic book style color, its the story of a little girl who sees her dad as... well, a superhero.  It's so much fun, and such a sweet story, and my favorite anecdote from Ethan Bryan (who is a friend of mine, and pasty white) is "Someone asked me why the dad and daughter in the story are black.  My answer was 'Why not?'"  Get this book and read to and with your kids.

Oh, hey Anna Kendrick.  How you?
10 - "Scrappy Little Nobody" by Anna Kendrick (2016)
One of my favorite "new era" of actresses, as in, those in their 20s who we are witnessing the early part of what will be a long career (see, "Stone, Emma" or "Watson, Emma"), she writes various stories of her coming-up, from theater to auditions to love to life in general, all with a sort of awkward tone... because as fun as she may be, she's awkward, and that's part of her charm.

9 - "End of Watch" by Stephen King (2016)
After "Mr. Mercedes" and "Finders Keepers" (which I think is the best in the trilogy), King ends the Bill Hodges Trilogy with the reemergence of the Brady Hartsfield, the villain in the first one (with only a cameo in the second). Its a solid ending, and a great effort.  Will Patton is a regular King narrator, and though his female voices border the line between decent and silly, its still a great journey.

8 - "Right for a Reason: Life, Liberty & a Crapload of Common Sense" by Miriam Weaver and Amy Jo Clark, aka The Chicks on the Right (2014)
Let's put it this way... if you are conservative, you'll love this indictment of Black Lives Matter, Hillary Clinton, the liberal media, the hypocrisy of Hollywood and more. If you are a liberal, you will think this book is full of crap.  You can probably tell where I fall on that spectrum.

Oh, and she does.  Lauren Graham is one of my favorites on TV, playing one of my favorite TV roles ever -- Lorelei Gilmore -- and this is a quick dash through her early career, her experience on Gilmore Girls and the awesomeness of the new Gilmore Girls series.  She's full of jokes and one-liners (most land, a few do not) and great energy, and you just want to sit with her and ask all the questions about all the things. 

Before he was the best selling author of "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" (along with "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", which was turned into one of the worst films I've seen in recent memory), Grahame-Smith wrote up this little ditty about what to do when facing the travails and problems of a horror film. You'll learn what to do when faced with such horrors as cannibalistic hillbillies, serial killers, zombies, vampires, haunted Japanese videocassettes and more.  It's the funniest book I read all year, and anyone who's ever watched a coed go into a dark basement with a low-bulb flashlight in a film will appreciate the pop culture here.

This book is crazy good. Two parallel stories -- one is Daniel Burnham, an architect who was given the task of constructing and pulling off the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.  The other is the story of H.H. Holmes, who was a sadistic killer who built a "murder castle", full of torture rooms and dead bodies... and both stories intertwine even though the Burnham and Holmes rarely cross paths within the story itself.  While Burnham's story is compelling, dealing with the politics and limitations of the day in an effort to make what was then one of the biggest events on the planet, its Holmes' story that brings this book to life. The building he constructed was pure evil, purposely built for killing and disposing of lots of bodies, many of them being women and children.  Oh, and this isn't a fiction book -- this is a true story, soon to be a movie with Leonard DiCaprio.

SIDEBAR... I finished the last 4 hours of this book while on a plane headed to Anaheim for training in Disneyland last September.  I was around 30 minutes from completion as I walked out of John Wayne Airport towards the Disney transportation area.  And I spent the entire trip from the airport to the Disneyland listening to the rest of the book, literally hearing the last few words as the bus rolled to a stop in front of the Grand Californian.  True story.

4 - "The Whistler" by John Grisham (2016)

Investigator Lacy Stoltz and her partner Hugo Hatch get a call from a mysterious source named Myers, who has information on the corruption at a high judicial level centering on a casino on the Tappacola Indian Reservation in the Florida panhandle.  Thus begins the unfolding of a tense tale of mafia, bad judges, money laundering and more.  Grisham went through a period of novels that told a good story and had terrible endings (I'm looking at you, "The Appeal"), but his last four or five have been at the least solid and at their best, stellar.  This falls somewhere in between, but I really enjoyed the twists.   Note:  Make sure you get a copy of the "prequel", "Witness to a Trial", available on Kindle and -- its not mandatory, but it sets up "The Whistler" really, really well.

Flynn novels always have ominous
and cool covers
3 - "Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn (2006)
I avoided this book for a while, because while I enjoyed "Gone Girl", and really loved "Dark Places" (avoid the movie, its terrible), I wasn't sure if I wanted to read a tale about a chick who cuts herself obsessively.  Finally, though, I felt I needed to read it to cross off all of Flynn's novels.  And I'm glad I did.  Camille Preaker is a journalist with many, many issues, who is sent by her tiny newspaper to her Missouri hometown to investigate the murder of a little girl.  Soon, another body shows up, and Camille and detective Richard Willis -- also her love interest -- try to unravel this case.  And it keeps taking bizarre turns, culminating in an ending that I sorta saw coming, but was thrilling nonetheless. 

I've heard rumors that Flynn has a new novel coming out in May, and I'm sure I'll be listening to it the day it's released.

Being a pop culture junkie, how about a book that essentially runs down the Top 100 television shows of all time, gives an additional list of "almost there" shows and another list of shows that could make future lists.  They start right out of the gate with their Top Five, as they go back and forth on which one could actually be the greatest show of all time -- The Simpsons, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Cheers or The Sopranos.  (I'll let you read to find out how they end up finally ranking out)

It's a great reminder of the history of television, as they dive deep into old shows like The Rifleman, Twilight Zone and Dark Shadows, and argue over how good or how bad shows like The Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island were.  It's a fat stack of 436 pages, but I breezed through it, wondering where my favorite all time TV shows ranked... hint:  Out of The Wonder Years, Facts of Life and Scarecrow & Mrs King, only one of them showed up.  Sad!

SIDEBAR: It's no secret I'm slowly working on my own book.  It's a movie book, and it pretty much discusses my favorite 500 films of all time. I'd already decided the "talk about one by one" format was how I was going to go, and the fact this works so well here makes me comfortable in my own decision.

And.. the best book I read all year...

Just re-watched this movie this week. Its got
great re-watchability.
Math confuses me sometimes, so you toss in elements of subprime lending, collateralized debt obligation (CDO) and credit default swaps, and I'm all like "Huh?"  Enter Michael Lewis, the amazing author of "The Blind Side" and "Moneyball", two books (and movies) I love very much.  Lewis' take on the housing market collapse of the mid-2000s that led to the bankruptcy and demise of generations old firms like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers is fantastic, and spelled out pretty easily. There is still a lot to absorb, and I'd be lying if I told you I understood most half of it, at least well enough to explain it to you, but I did come away with an full understanding of it. 

The characters in the book have depth -- especially since they are real people -- including Howie Hubler who literally lost $900 Billion (that's with a B, not a typo) in a SINGLE DAY... Steven Eisman, a hedge fund manager who is working to system to get rich and yet is still appalled by the entire thing... and Michael Burry, a market analyst with Asperger's, who saw the collapse coming and pushed through the derision and criticism of everyone else to make a boatload of cash at the end. 

If you've seen the equally excellent movie "The Big Short", Christian Bale portrays the Burry character, and what you see on camera -- the nervousness, the loud music, the shorts and t-shirt in the office, the slight lisp and speech impediment, the socially awkward style -- is exactly who he is in the book. 

SIDEBAR:  Personally, I thought he and Tom Hardy's character in "The Revenant" were miles ahead of anyone else in 2014 and should have split the Best Supporting Actor Oscar which went to the undeserving Mark Rylance in "Bridge of Spies", but that's me. I mean, its my opinion, but I'm still right.

So there ya go...  my favorite ten books of the year!   

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

books read in 2016... the not top ten

So I wanted to share my Top Ten Books of 2016... these books are all read for the first time. Though re-reads of books count toward my goal. Out of 43 books, 9 of them were read for a 2nd time, one a 3rd time and as mentioned with Harry Potter, a 5th time.  You can read about my method on my previous post, for the love of audiobooks

But first, let me tell you what I read that didn't make my Top Ten of the year...

--"The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (in real life)" by Chris Hardwicke. Fun, but a little long and tedious in some parts.

--"The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories" by Stephen King. Very enjoyable collection of short stories & novellas.

--"The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles" by Steven Pressfield. Solid take on creativity.

Read this, then watch "Making a Murderer" on
Netflix, THEN read "Indefensible", then decide
if you think Steven Avery did it. (I say yes)
--"Stuffology 101: Get Your Mind Out of the Clutter" by  Brenda Avadian & Eric M. Riddle. Some great tips on de-clutter and organization.

--"The Innocent Killer: A True Story of a Wrongful Conviction and It's Aftermath" & "Indefensible: The Missing Truth About Steven Avery, Teresa Halbach and Making a Murderer" by Michael Griesbach. The former was written before "Making a Murderer", all about Steven Avery's false conviction for a rape case, then a real conviction for the murder of Teresa Halbach. The latter was written after the Netflix doc, and it's a good companion piece to it, about what you didn't see on TV.

--"Confessions of a Terrible Husband: Lessons Learned from a Lumpy Couch" - Nick Pavildas. A really fun marriage book. Recommended.

--"Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies" - Owen Gleibermann. Wanted a book on the life of a movie critic, got a book on the life and sexual devience of said critic.

--"Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy" by Alli Worthington.  She's a great speaker and a great author, and this is a great reminder to just... well, slow down a bit.
--"Tribes: We Need You Lead Us" by Seth Godin.  All about the importance of the people around you.

--The Entire Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. Order of the Phoenix is still my favorite, though Goblet of Fire is really catching up.

--"Football Confidential: True Confessions From the Gutter of Football" by Anonymous. When an NFL player tells all... don't go looking for lots of name dropping, you won't get it.

--"A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love & Faith in Stages" by Kristen Chenoweth. A memoir of a Broadway superstar. Loved this.

--"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" by E.L. Baum. A classic that should be read.

--"The Running Man" by Richard Bachman, nee Stephen King. The movie is better, though this was okay.  And by the way, the theme of the game show "Running Man" is the same, but otherwise, there are vast differences.

--"DisneyWar" by James Stewart. The rise & fall of Michael Eisner at Disney, and this book is amazing.

--"Purple Cow: Transform Your Team By Being Remarkable" by Jeff Goins. Do you have a marketing idea? If its a purple cow, you have a real shot at success.

--"Kill Him Some More: Notorious USA" by Caitlin Rother. Terrible true crime. Poorly written.

--"The Death of the WCW" by Bryan Alverez. Loved this book in 1996, and liked it now. A good business tale.

This is a fun book, and its cool when you know
the author as well
--"Wildflower" by Drew Barrymore. My favorite "bad girl" from the early 90s, all grown up and acting like an adult. Fun memoir.

--"Possessed: The Infamous Texas Stiletto Murder" by Kathryn Casey. I love her true crime stuff, and she doesn't fail here either.

--"Superhuman by Habit" & "Superhuman Social Skills" by Tynan. Yawn.

--"The Red Bandanna: A Life, A Choice, A Legacy" by Tom Rinaldi. The story of a heroism at the World Trade Center. So good.

--"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Interesting story, quick read. Movie was better (and longer)

--"Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explaisn the Hidden Side of Everything" by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  An interesting take on not just economics, but socioeconomics -- where else could you see the connect between standardized testing of US teachers and the Yazuka and sumo wrestling in Japan.

--"The Descendants" by Kaui Hart Hemmings.  The George Clooney movie is based on this book about a Hawaiian landowner, a wife in a coma, two troubled daughters and an affair. If you like the movie, you'll like the book. If not... you won't. I loved both.

And so tomorrow, my Top Ten Books of 2016

Monday, February 13, 2017

for the love of audiobooks

For the third year in a row, I reached my book goal! Because unless I have something to push towards, I can tell you that I would likely never pick up a book and absorb a single word...

Okay, let me stop here and further expound on this point, lest you call me out on whatever you'd call me out on. I use Audible. I'm an audiobook junkie... in fact, my first audiobook ever was a Christmas story (A, not The) on cassette I randomly obtained in college. It was the story of a girl who lived on the wrong side of the tracks, and was picked on by some of the more popular girls, and somehow was given an assignment to be a secret Santa to one of the popular girls... so because she had very little money due to her family not being very financially sound, she ends up making Christmas presents for the girl. And she ends up bringing joy to an otherwise shallow young lady, by making the gifts thoughtful (like, a basket with the girl's favorite things in it, or a scrapbook documenting her cheerleading career, etc).

This movie is amazing. The original from 1957 is likely a better film,  but I
enjoyed this movie so much more
I don't remember the name of the book, the author, and I'm not positive it wasn't a shorter story as a part of a Christmas collection, but there ya go. I remember being all excited about letting my friend Allyson listen to it so she'd enjoy it as much as I did, and she was like "Yeah, its great". Thanks, chick. To be fair, she did the same thing - before falling asleep - when I made her watch Showtime's version of "Twelve Angry Men" in 1997, so perhaps we didn't see eye to eye on what made compelling storytelling. Digress, I do.

When I moved to Birmingham, I visited the library one day (for you millennials, the "library" is a place where you can "check out", or "borrow", or even "free rent" books and other types of media, with the agreement that you return it in a set amount of time) and discovered this huge array of books on CD. So I visited 2 or 3 times per month, checking out anywhere from 3 or 4 to 8 or 9 books on CD at a time, importing them into my iTunes. Some loaded easily, with track names, others had tracks that were about a minute long -- some books literally had 100s of tracks to them. "Kingdom Keepers", I'm looking at you.

Some years later, after I had 100+ audiobooks loaded into iTunes, I discovered My first book ever was "Walt Disney" by Neal Gabler, this 35 hour epic biography, which I blew through in a few days. I was hooked... not only was it just a few files (four 8-hour tracks) but no CDs to deal with. I bought a few more books here and there, and realized that the 1-credit per month plan was not enough. I bumped it up to 2-credits per month and have had that ever since.

The real debate rages on... does listening to audiobooks count as reading? I say yes. Many say no.

The real answer? Who gives a rip. I call it reading, you call it listening, let's call the whole thing off, amma right?

Without, I wouldn't touch a book of any kind. Why? I'm just too busy. Through audiobooks, I can take the book in so much better... see, when I read, I have a bad habit of scan-reading. I don't mean to, but I do -- I'll even read a paragraph and have to go back a few pages to get a context of what I just read, as I may have scanned over it. The Lovely Steph Leann says I do this with emails, though I don't know what she means. Wink wink nudge nudge.

Without Audible, I would have never gone in-depth into the Steven Avery case, as documented in "Making a Murderer" on Netflix. Without Audible, I would have never discovered the benefit of the Purple Cow as per Seth Goins. Without Audible, would likely have never revisited (re-read) the downfall of the WCW in the 90s as a part of the Monday Night War. Or known what the true difference is between the movie and the book of "The Running Man".

Or gone through all of the Harry Potter novels for a 5th time. All 119 hours of it, by the way.

I had a goal of 43 books this year... and 42 of them were listened to via my iPod, thanks to Audible. This is not a shill for Audible, necessarily, they just happen to be who I dearly love.

Incidentally, this was the opening part to a three part blog post about the books actually read in 2016... and so that comes tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

to campbell, on your 5th birthday

Dear Campbell,

You LOVE to swing. Actually, you just love to play
outdoors, swinging or not. You love to bring your shoes
to me, hoping to get them on so we can go out--even
if its bedtime, you'd still rather go out and play.
You are five years old.  FIVE YEARS OLD.  That means for 5 years, you have been a part of our lives... born two weeks early in 2011, though I guess I could say you've been a part of our lives for even longer.  Your mom carried you for 8 1/2 months, and we prayed for you, hoped for you, couldn't wait to meet who you'd be even before you were even conceived.

And we can't imagine life without you.

Okay, we maybe could, as we'd probably go to the movies more, and probably to Disney World a lot more... but what fun would that be?  You make our lives... interesting.  And joyous. And full.

So, let's talk about your year so far... frankly, my favorite movie so far as been "Arrival", starring your dad's main Hollywood squeeze Amy Adams (don't tell mom), but "Magnificent Seven" was also pretty great, as was "Doctor Strange" and "Zootopia" and "Captain America Civil War".  Who knows how many Marvel movies will be around by the time you read this.

Your dad's mancrush, The Rock, also had a movie called "Central Intelligence" and became the Sexiest Man Alive, according to People Magazine.  I think I was a finalist, but they didn't call me like I thought they would.

For music... really, who knows. Seriously, kid, I stay stuck on 90s nostalgia.  There is a group called The Chainsmokers, but that name just weirds me out so I don't listen to them, really.

On TV, we started watching a few shows like "Designated Survivor" and "This Is Us" and "Westworld" but the gem of the year is called "Speechless".  Its a family with a handicapped, special needs son, its a comedy and its wonderful.  I'm sure we woke you up from laughing... sorry about that.

Speaking of sleeping... you finally got to your big boy bed!  It was fiasco getting the bed together with the mattress, but your mom and I can finally stretch out in our own bed -- especially since when you slept with us, you tended to toss your arms and legs all over the bed. And us.  You are still working on it though... you still wake up sometimes at 5a... or 630a... or 2a... you crawl out of bed in the dark, go around the rails on your bed, then run down the hall to our room.  Thankfully, you stopped turning the lights on, but still, you do scare Mom when you get right in her face.  I randomly wake up during the night and there you are, your knee in my back.  If I didn't love you so much, you'd sleep on the porch.

At the last minute, your mom managed to get you a
Jake & the Neverland Pirates costume. You might be
the cutest pirate ever.
I gotta tell ya, kid, you are leaping and bounding in the milestone department.  You probably didn't notice how dusty it was in the house on the day you finally called me "Daddy" and not "Gaga".  Well, truthfully, its a combo of "daddy" and "daggy" and "gaggy", but it's almost perfect.  And when you look at me and yell "DAGGGYY!!!", I can barley stand the love.  Heart explode and all that such stuff.

You know how to spell your name now, Campbell!  There you were, staring at a plaque that your Aunt Brynn & Uncle Tyler got you for Christmas, and you just started spelling...

"CEE!! AH!!! AHMM!  PEEE!! BEEE!!!! AH!!! EHH!! EHH!!"

...and it was incredible.  I thought your mom and I were going to literally scream with joy.  Your other big word is

"CAT"... "CEE!!  AHH!  TEEE!" and then you yell "CAT!".

And let me tell ya, you spell the heck out of those words all day long.  And we love it.  Heck, sometimes when we aren't even paying attention, you break out into the ABC song! (you do struggle from letters K through P, but you get a pass. For now.)

Some of your favorite toys so far this year were empty egg crates (you love opening and closing them)... your numerous iPhone and iPod products you have (thanks to our friends Rachel and Mark and Bill and others)... various musical toys you have had for years now... and of course, your spelling games on your iPad.

You finally learned the potty!  This past May was an insane weekend, but with your amazing Mom taking the lead, we were able to train you to actually pee in the potty (okay, we help you aim, but still)... and you definitely know how to sit on the seat and unload.  Man, can you drop in that bowl... whew.  I'm hoping when you read this, you'll have learned how to identify your need for the bathroom without just dropping trou in the living room and letting us lead you to the bathroom. One day you'll get it that you can go faster if you pull your pants down while at the toilet than doing it in another room and shuffling there.  Just sayin'. We'll get there.

There is a local place here called Let's Play -- I can only guess it'll be around when you are reading this, and I'm sure we'll go many more times. I bring that up because it was a thrill to watch you conquer your fears... you did the ropes course there all on your own.  I mean, its a small one, lots of pedestals and ropes and bridges and tunnels, with a big net under it, but it was amazing to watch you run up to the steps, climb up, climb down, up and down and back up, then go on the little platform, then back and over and over and over... and slowly start easing your way through the course.  And I watched you from a bench, I didn't help you do any of it.  You did it all on your own, kid, and it was incredible.  You did the same with the big bounce slide thing and the other bouncy inflatable thing... if only we could get you to conquer that fear of the vacuum or the shredder or the hair dryer when they are turned on.

Here is your mom and you at a Kulture City event
last spring. You are adorable. So is she. 
Campbell, your eye contact is great, and you look at people when you say some words. You know your colors, you know many of your letters, you can do many things on your own now and I know hearing you actually say sentences is not too far away.  Mitchell's Place, your school, is doing so much for you, and Ms Kia and Ms Alison love you so much and are doing wonderful things with you!  And Kulture City took us to the zoo for an event, and though you weren't keen on a giraffe licking your hand (who is?), I know you love the animals.

This is a total cliche, but I will say it... Campbell, you may have autism, but it does not have you.  I feel like you tell Autism to "Suck it" every day, in your own way.  We'll help you keep it up.

Campbell Isaiah, you are so, so loved by so many people. Your family, your friends, our friends, even people who haven't met you in person ask about you and follow along in your pictures online.

Finally, I wanted to mention this election year.  We had two candidates -- Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump -- and Trump won.  This country is crazy right now, with all sides yelling at each other, people hating on each other because of gender or skin color or religion and all that.  I'm glad you don't understand any of this right now. Your world ends when we refuse to shuffle the cards for you (because we are trying to have dinner, so please just watch Elena of Avalor or PJ Masks til we are done... please?) and this is the only kind of oppression we hope you deal with for a long time.

Right now, you know nothing of color or religion or anything of the sort. All you see are people. All you see are hugs and smiles and maybe hands with phones in them that you can try to grab, but I want you to be this way for a long time. You are affectionate and love everyone right now. Even people who take your toys or snap at you... you forget the wrong nearly immediately.  You won't always be able to be this way... but stay this was as long as you can.

Keep loving people, Campbell.  Your mom and I want to do our best to make sure you are grounded in God's Truth and the love of Jesus, but more than anything, I want you to love God... and love other people.  And we can sort the rest out as we go.

I love you, son.


(last year's letter for Campbell's 4th birthday, with links to previous letters)  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

the last 18 years

perhaps its bad form to point out the flaws, but you lose the strengths of doing anything only sparingly, and writing is no different.  Grammatically incorrect and structurally derp, please forgive the way its presented and just take the message... 

Today is an important day in the life of one d$.  It was on this day in 1998 that I moved to Birmingham, Alabama.  I knew no one, I had no church, I didn't know my way around... but I chose B'Ham.

Why, you ask?  Well, my original intent was Mobile, a city that I still think is cool.  My other options were Atlanta and Nashville, because I'm more of a city guy... or was when I was 23 anyway.  But job offers had not come from Mobile, but I did get one job offer from Birmingham, at a little place called Designers International.

Now, if I could go back, there are a number of things I would tell 23 year old d$ to consider before shaking Rob Zuckert's hand and agreeing to work for this company.

First, what will I be doing?  The answer ended up being going door to door, store to store, parking lot to parking lot, selling knock off perfume out of a box.

Next, ask what my starting salary would be...  The perfume was $22 a bottle, so anything price I got beyond the $22 was mine to keep.  My first week in Birmingham, I made $7.  I wish I were kidding...

Finally, ask where the door was so I could leave... this was a disaster, but that's another post.

No, the main reason I moved to Birmingham was for a girl named Amy Wible, because I thought we'd go out.  When the girl you dig says "Move here and we can see each other!", you move.  Or I did.  As it turns out, we actually didn't see each other for another 2 years, but that is also another story.

But, this day in history... my friends Allysong, Shelby, Eddie, Troy Mac, Claire and a few others helped me load my stuff into my car and into another, and we drove to Birmingham together to unload it into my new, $435 per month loft at Carousel Apartments on Lorna Road.  My friends were so cool, in fact, that we drove back to Troy, loaded up the rest of it and came back... the guys spent the night with me, the girls with Allysong (who was from Alabaster, a Birmingham suburb), and early the next day, they drove back to Troy, Alabama.  Without me.  I was on my own.

My dream, besides working at Designer International, was to catch on a radio station and maybe be behind the mic... after all, I did it for 3 years in college, so this can't be hard, right?  Or maybe work at a TV station, first in production and then perhaps, who knows, in front of the camera?

It's been 18 years since my dreams of my two years in Birmingham would surely spill into a great job in Nashville, TN, or maybe over in Atlanta, maybe with Amy, maybe not. Or maybe I'd just move to New York City for a year or so... but first, let me spend two years here, get settled, pay off some debt and then pack up and move on.

But a funny thing happened on the way to 2016.

I met a guy named Michael and ended up moving to Pinebrook Apartments with he and Shawn and Big Tom Johnson.  Then we moved to Briarberry Circle and founded The Deuce.

I joined Valleydale Baptist Church, now known as Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship), my first -- and only -- church membership. I'm still there, despite all the changes.

I met Stephanie Campbell in our college & career group at church, and thought she was the cutest thing ever.

I got a job as a temp at Parisian Corporate, which turned into a full time sales assistant job.

I worked at a radio station as a sales assistant, and realized I didn't want to do radio as a career.

I worked at the local NBC station, again as a sales assistant, and realized it was the worst job I'd ever had.

I worked at a movie theater and learned that many high school students are lazy. But many work hard.

I reconnected with Amy and realized she wasn't the one for me (and she knew I wasn't the one for her) 

I worked at Starbucks because I decided I would pay off my debts and save up for a ring because I really, really liked that cute girl named Stephanie Campbell.

I worked at The Disney Store and it confirmed my love of all things Disney. And I realized that yes, you can have a complete broken heart when the job ends.

I worked at Starbucks again and realized, maybe years too late, it wasn't my life's goal.

I worked at Alabama Power, to help clear my head of Starbucks.

And then I became a full time travel planner.

I've been a ticket tearer, a perfume pimper, a make-salespeople-look-good'er, a barista, a shift supervisor, an assistant manager, a manager, a barista, a shift supervisor, an assistant manager, a shift supervisor, a Cast Member, an engineering contractor (!) and finally, a travel planner.
I helped start a podcast with some of my best friends, my Deucemates... I've been close to my Sunday Scho... er, Life Connec... uh, Life Gro... that group on Sunday mornings for over 10 years now... I've reconnected with my BFF Best Mate Wookiee after a few years apart... I've reconnected with my worst first date ever, Ginny Kochan... I've become friends with reality stars like Brooke from The Bachelor, now on NBC, and been put into the Million Dollar Hold by WWE Hall of Famer Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase... I joined the cult of Jon Acuff, and three years later, I can say names like "Clay Shaver" and "Rick TOOOOLIE" and "Debra Henessy" and "Liz Clark" as some of my favorite people on the planet, people that help push me to what I'm doing now...

In 18 years, I've written 1000+ blog posts... traveled the East Coast... watched 1000s of movies... read 100s of books... been to Disney World countless times, and even did the "four parks in one day" thing twice (while doing the water parks too, for a 6 parks in one day trip) and accomplished 50 attractions in 24 hours...

In 18 years, I got married to the cutest thing ever, The Lovely Steph Leann... we had Campbell Isaiah, who is the most amazing kid I know...  lost both of the people who raised me, but gained a mom who'd let me go 36 years ago... we paid off debt, we bought a house, we bought a brand new car...

And if I had moved to Mobile... I would have never had The Deuce... I would have never found Valleydale, and thusly never met The Lovely Steph Leann... I might've never met Clay Shaver or Liz Clark... Wookiee may have never come to see me in Mobile, so we would have been another case of "best buds in college, but lost touch over the years"... my life would be different.

Maybe worse, maybe just a lateral move in quality (I mean, who's to say that I wouldn't be talking about my life in Mobile, wondering what life would have been like had I moved to Birmingham instead?) but...

but... I like it like this.  For what was supposed to be a two year stop in Birmingham before moving to bigger and better... I somehow found my bigger and better right here.

Two years becomes 18, and 18 will likely become 25 and beyond.

Here's to the next 18.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

in the early hours of fathers day

"'s late at night and neither one of us are sleeping..." - "Just Take My Heart" by Mr. Big, 1991

Happy Father's Day and look, I still have a blog.

Ironic enough that I just spent the first hour or so of this, my 5th Father's Day (It's the 6th, if you count the pregnancy, which The Lovely Steph Leann does not, but I still want to give credence), getting my crying kid to go back to sleep.

The Lovely Steph Leann left earlier today to head to Salt Lake City for a Young Living convention, not to return until after next weekend... so that's a whole lot of Campbell & Daddy time between now and then.  (if you are one of those snakes who like to rob people when they think the home will be empty, just know I work from home, so joke's on you, loser).

Aunt Becky is scheduled to come into town for half of the week, but with her age and lack of mobility, that's really just an extra eye on the little guy while I get shower at a decent hour.  Hashtag unnecessary rhymes.

The afternoon has been fine... Campbell & I both had lunch, and while he played, I watched a movie ("The Death of Superman Lives", an excellent documentary on the ill fated attempt at a Superman revival in 1999 starring Nicholas Cage.  Yes, that Nic Cage).  In the early afternoon, he and I visited Let's Play, a local indoor play area, and then ran some errands to Wal-Mart and dinner.  He was pretty beat, which was according to plan, but I made him hold out until after I finished the documentary I was watching in the evening (Part 4 of the also excellent ESPN 30 for 30 film "OJ: Made in America"), and by 8ish, he was dead to the world.

For those of you who are reading this and are unfamiliar with my 4 year old, he's on the spectrum.  Most of his 4 years have been spent being rocked to sleep, so I thought I'd turn on some super daddy skillz tonight and after his bath, after putting on his pajamas, instead of rocking him, I just laid down with him in the bed.  It took him a little while to sleep, but sleep finally came... out like a little light.

I came downstairs, then knocked out the final part, Part 5, of the OJ doc, then cleaned up the kitchen a little bit... the usual, with dishes, getting food ready for tomorrow, dishes, spraying and wiping down counters and of course, dishes. All of this while starting on the final 8 hours of the 21 hour audiobook "Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows" (it's a race to the finish now, as I've gone through the other 6 books in the last few months, and their length is really slowing my pace to finish 43 books this year... it's mid-June and Deathly Hallows is only Book 16! Where was I?  Oh yes...)

The kitchen cleaned, I sat down in front of the laptop to open it for the very first time today and was just making a slight change on a Disney trip for a family (if you didn't know about Campbell, you probably didn't know I plan Disney trips for a living. #ShamelessPlug), and was listening intently as Harry was questioning Mr. Ollivander, the wandmaker, about the Elder Wand when... I heard crying.

I paused the iPod, left the laptop and everything on and ran upstairs.  There was Campbell, sitting up in bed, in pitch dark... the diffuser I had going earlier had gone out, so I fumbled for the small bathroom light to turn on.  I flipped the switch, and he just looked up at me with a pitiful look... sniffling, he reached out to me.

I got on the bed with him, stroked his hair, laid next to him and let him cry for a minute. What about, I have no idea.  See, Campbell can't tell us these things yet. He has no way of vocalizing if things hurt, if he's scared, if he doesn't feel good... all we can do is just comfort and make guesses.

I asked if he had to "go potty", and his body language said that while that wasn't making him cry, he could probably go about now.  We went to the bathroom, he went, and we came back to the bed.  I re-set the diffuser so it's light could replace the bathroom light, and could also fill the air with some oil that may help him if he was congested.  Then I lay back beside him.

And he cried and cried.  No tears, so I suppose it could be night terrors, or it could be hurting somewhere... or he could just decide that it was time to cry, right now.  I lay there with him as he cried and sometime screamed in my ear. I had some patience, but regrettably, it was wearing a little thin -- The Lovely Steph Leann is always so much better at this than I am. And she's gone.  I never resent her trips unless this happens, then I wish she'd never leave.

When I've rocked Campbell to sleep before, I usually will pray out loud for him.  I  pray for his health, I pray that he will find Christ in His timing, I pray for his development and I always pray that Campbell will begin talking -- not just the words that he can say here and there, or repeat back when we ask him to say something, but to actually communication.

This time, however, my prayers were a little more forceful. I challenged God. I asked God "Why won't you help him?  I'm not asking you to make him a typical child, or to suddenly increase his development, but You know You could snap your fingers and make him talk. You know You could blink Your eyes and he'd be asleep, without any pain he might feel right now.

God, I have a kid who can't even tell me and his mom that he loves us. I can't play LEGOs with him, I can't enjoy milk and Oreos with him, I can't take him to see Finding Dory, when I'm at Let's Play, I have to watch him even closer than most parents watch their kids because he doesn't understand whats appropriate around other kids... why won't You help him?  Why do You refuse to?!"

It's questions I think I've struggled with subconsciously for a while.  Just... why.  Keep the autism, that's fine, that's who he is and who God made him to be.  But just fix that part.  That talking part. Please.

It was at this moment I noticed Campbell was quiet. He had nestled into my left arm, which was holding him, with his head on my shoulder.  Even in the dim light, I could see Campbell's eyes open. Big, wonderment-filled eyes.  They looked around before finally looking straight into mine.  Campbell and I laid there, eyes locked for probably no more than 30 seconds, but it was enough.

And in those eyes, God spoke to me.

He said, "d$... your question to me is 'Why won't I help him?', but what you are really asking is... 'Why won't I help YOU?' He knows nothing of LEGOs and Oreos and movie theaters. These are all things YOU wish to experience with him, for him.  These are not bad things... in fact, they are wonderful things. But these are not things for the two of you to experience.  You will have your own experiences that other fathers and their children will know nothing about. Because this is the plan I have for him. And for you."

As I finished this blog post, I ran back up to take this pic... and he was in
the exact same spot that I left him. Cute little guy, ain't he.
And it made sense. It wasn't what I wanted to hear, but it did make sense.  And yes, selfishly, I want those things. But I learned many years ago -- though I still struggle with it constantly -- to not mourn what I'll be missing with Campbell, but to celebrate what I'll be getting, what me and The Lovely Steph Leann will have in our son.

Well... I'd love to tell you that Campbell went right on to sleep... but he didn't.  He rolled over, cried some more, jerked his whole body so that he essentially butt-punched me in the stomach, accidentally (I think) smacked me in the face, and cried a little more.  But finally... finally, he closed his eyes for the final time tonight (I hope) and was gone.

Which allowed me to come down here and shut everything down... allowed me to jot down my thoughts here before I did.  I've this is my 4th re-read of the Harry Potter series, so I know that Harry, Ron, Hermione and Griphook are about to take on Gringotts (#NerdAlert) so no need to continue that tonight.

Happy Father's Day to you fathers out there. Take a bow.  And to those who are mourning the loss of their own father, I grieve with you, as the man who raised me passed 16 years ago.  And to those fathers who have lost loved ones, I nod to you as well.

Dads... remember... this day is about you. But it's always about them.  And always will be.

(ps... because it's now 207a, my usual terrible lyrical style was made even more terrible, so please excuse the bad grammar, misspelled words and lack of proper punctuation)